Sunday, October 7, 2018

Know Your Rosin - It's a Sticky Situation

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Magic Rosin with the Fein Violins logo  

It's been several years since we've blogged about Rosin.  The basics really haven't changed- Every string player needs rosin on their bow. And, in fact, the way the rosin works hasn't changed in several hundred years. But our understanding of how rosin works on a horsehair bow is becoming more in depth.

The differences in the many varieties and qualities of rosin for violin, viola, or cello seem to come from these factors- the season of the year the tapping is done, the specific species of evergreen that is tapped, how the rosin is refined from the resin, and what, if any, sprinklings of fairy dust are added.
Magic Rosin. It's clear!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Left Handed Violins

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Occasionally, we get calls from beginners, or their parents, desperately searching for a "left handed violin".  Andy's mother was a lefty and the cello expert at our shop is a lefty, so we know the challenges that left handed people face in many aspects of life. And we know that guitars are made left handed. But guitar construction is not the same as violin family construction or playing. So here's our contention (and Megan, a left-handed cellist absolutely agrees!)- VIOLINS (and violas, and cellos) ARE LEFT HANDED as they are standardly set up. That is, the fine finger movement and hand control necessary to play a stringed instrument is centered in the left hand. Lefties have an advantage when it comes to playing violin, viola or cello- their brains are already wired for the movements to play a violin family instrument. It's righties that have some brain training to do in this regard.

The bow is held in the right hand. While there is a lot of bow finesse to learn, it's mainly macro muscle arm and hand movements. So, again, lefties are already set up to play stringed instruments the way they are already constructed.

The insides of a violin look like this-
soundpost on the E (treble) side and a bass bar on the G (bass) side

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

BIG Violas and Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis

image from courtesy of Margaret and Robert Lyons

By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Lionel Tertis was a giant of the viola world. He brought the viola and viola playing into the 20th century as a viola soloist and commissioner of new viola solo compositions. A true giant of the viola world. But he was not a giant of a man. More like an average sized guy. But he loved the big, deep, bass-like sound that big violas produce. Throughout his career, he played a 17'' Carlo Antonio Testore viola from 1735, as well as a 17 3/4'' Gasparo da Salo viola. He met his match in Paris in 1920 when he discovered a huge Montagnana viola that was made in 1717. The Montagnana viola was 17 1/8" ( 434mm). To play a viola that large comfortably and without injury from long term use, I'd insist that the player be well over 6'! Preferably, over 6'4". Alas, Tertis was 5'6'', not anywhere near that tall. What to do, what to do?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Before Cremona- Where Did the Violin Come From?

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Where did the violin family come from?

"1647 Nicola Amati Violin"

Used by permission of the author and publisher of BC, Before Cremona, All rights reserved

It's possible, although not probable, that Andrea Amati woke up one morning and said (in Italian, of course!) "Hey! I've got a great idea for a four stringed musical instrument that doesn't have any frets, is tuned in fifths, has f-holes, violin type corners, pegs that project out to the sides,  and that you play with a stick that has rosined horse hair on it." More likely, the instruments we know as the violin, viola, and cello slowly evolved from previous instruments and were an amalgamation of ideas for instruments that had preceded them by centuries.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Craft Beer and the Craft of Composing- Joey Crane, Composer and Beer Guy

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins 
and Ivana Truong

In the constantly expanding world of craft beer, it's hard to know what to try, what to avoid, and what is not to your taste. To help guide you, wine has sommeliers, beer has cicerones. A cicerone is a "beer person"  that actually knows what they're talking about. For me (Andy, Ivana's too young to drink), that person is Joey Crane. I first met him at The Ale Jail on St. Clair Ave. in St. Paul. I was perusing the many craft beers and Joey introduced himself as the beer person there. I went away from that first encounter with several beers to try. Now, several years later, I can proclaim without any hint of beer snobbery that "I really like Belgian Ales with secondary in bottle fermentation." And for most cicerones, that's about as far as I'd get to know the person.
Composer Joey Crane